Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

In 1969, Norman Mailer was assigned by Life magazine to report on the first manned landing on the moon. Mailer worked as journalist, visiting the space centers at Houston, Texas, and Cape Kennedy, Florida. He interviewed the astronauts and other important figures in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); studied the technical reports, publicity releases, and transcripts of the voyage; and attended various briefings and press conferences held for the media. As in The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History (1968), however, he also covered the moon shot as a novelist, attempting to divine the psychology not only of the astronauts but also of the machines they handled and of the administration that guided them into space and into the public’s awareness. In the end, Mailer produced a comprehensive portrait of his personal reaction to this historic event while also giving full value to the experience of the event itself.

Of a Fire on the Moon is divided into three parts: “Aquarius,” “Apollo,” and “The Age of Aquarius.” As the titles of the sections suggest, the book begins by introducing its narrator, Norman Mailer, who dubs himself “Aquarius” because he was born under that astrological sign and because in this period of his life he sees himself as surrendering his personality to a time in history that may well redefine human nature and the nature of the world. Known for...

(The entire section is 564 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Adams, Laura. Existential Battles: The Growth of Norman Mailer, 1976.

Bailey, Jennifer. Norman Mailer: Quick-Change Artist, 1979.

Begiebing, Robert J. Acts of Regeneration: Allegory and Archetype in the Works of Norman Mailer, 1980.

Hollowell, John. Fact and Fiction: The New Journalism and the Nonfiction Novel, 1977.

Manso, Peter. Mailer: His Life and Times, 1985.

Mills, Hilary. Mailer: A Biography, 1982.

Solotaroff, Robert. Down Mailer’s Way, 1974.